The latest crop of new designers showing at this month’s Couture and JCK shows gleans inspiration everywhere, from ancient maharajas to chic world travelers.
This story first appeared in the July 15, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
In March 2000, Susan Gordon took a trip that changed her life.
As a member of the State Department and an aide to President Clinton, she traveled to India to begin talks on energy and climate control. Once she finished her work, Gordon left New Delhi and had a calling to go to Jaipur.
“I had no recollection of it, but I found myself asking, where is Jaipur?” Gordon said. “And when I got there, it was the Gem Palace that really captured me and really inspires me to this day — seeing real artisans doing traditional work. Our world is so massed produced and I was so taken by the people doing a ritual or craft in jewelry and embroidery and doing it all by hand, where each piece is different.”
Soon after her trip, Gordon retired from the government and in 2004 launched Susan Gordon Jewelry. She bases her design and production out of Jaipur, where she travels twice a year, and marketing and sales out of Kansas City, Mo. Her pendants and drop earrings in colorful tourmalines, rubellites and quartz are inspired by the architecture of the early Mughal Empire of India and later by the work of Henri Matisse.
“I felt like everything had come full circle,” said Gordon, who is showing at JCK. “My concern for the global environment brought me to India and once there, India guided me on a new life path.”
Gordon’s pieces retail from $1,000 to $15,000 and can be found at such boutiques as Cindy Griem Fine Jewels in Aspen, Colo.; Ojai, Calif.’s Pink Crow, and Fragments in New York.
While producing jewelry thousands of miles away is not without its headaches, Gordon couldn’t see doing it any other way.
“Doing business in a different culture is very interesting,” she said. “I once got a cuff back from New Delhi that was tested for gold and they had taken off an entire chunk.”
Chana Regev is no stranger to the jewelry industry. The Israeli transplant, who has also had stints in Italy and Switzerland, has been designing for private label clients for 30 years but is now realizing her goal of launching her own New York-based jewelry brand, Carelle, which means “For Her” in French.
“It’s very easy to do private label,” said Regev, who is showing at JCK and JCK Presents Luxury and Premiere. “I’ve worked with amazing people who are very creative and I still enjoy working with them, but sometimes you feel you just know enough to go out there on your own, and I wanted to take that chance.”
Along with her husband and business partner, Eyal, Regev is focused on creating pieces that follow motifs from nature, incorporating her signature leaf symbol throughout her rings and delicate pendants. She also uses color, working in bright gemstones set in 18-karat gold with diamond accents.
While Regev is moved by nature, she finds ideas in so much more.
“Everything inspires me,” Regev said. “A child laughing can create an entire collection. A bus going by and flashing something, little things like that can suddenly take me in a different direction. It comes from wind blowing through a tree, a sunny day.”
Regev admits it’s not exactly an easy time to launch a brand, but she knows women are always looking for something special.
“My challenges are basically economic,” Regev said. “We must be meticulous and technically know what we’re doing, but we think the design is everything a modern woman would want, and the price point and quality is onboard. We often wonder if we made the right decision at the right time, but it’s not in our hands. We trust that retailers will understand that they have to bring something new and pretty.”
Carelle retails from $300 to $20,000 and is available at Hamilton Jewelers in Palm Beach, Fla., Borsheims in Omaha and London’s Mappin & Webb.
Lisa Sheldon can thank her husband for encouraging her jewelry career. Founder and chief executive officer of Portero.com, the online site devoted to auctioning fine jewelry, Michael Sheldon asked Lisa two years ago to design a small, eclectic collection to complement the major brands already represented.
“He wanted something more cutting-edge that you’d see at Barneys or Bergdorf Goodman, which he didn’t have access to as a small, growing business,” Sheldon said. “So that was the impetus and it grew and took on a life of its own.”
Sheldon has long had an eye for design. She’s worked at Calvin Klein and her family’s history is rooted in retail. So when it came time to launch her namesake brand last December, Sheldon said it felt “innate and natural.” She is showing her collection at Couture.
“My husband and I have been discussing certain voids in the jewelry industry for a while,” Sheldon said. “There’s a lack of a sophisticated, elegant line that merges the elegance of gold and diamonds with the beauty and flair of semiprecious stones in their natural state. I love nature and have always mixed that sensibility with classic, traditional presentation.”
Sheldon’s pieces are all handmade, with such stones as chalcedony, prinite and chisophase mixed into 18-karat gold and diamonds. They wholesale from $500 to $20,000 and can be found at New York’s Edit boutique and on Portero.com.
“I love working in unusual but gorgeous stones,” Sheldon said. “People don’t think to wear them in a way that is rough and natural, but set in diamonds and gold, it’s unpretentious glamour. Jewelry today is a lot about brand and its cachet. I want to have something that is just beautiful on its own.”
When David Joseph and his wife, designer Miriam Salat, met a fellow traveler on vacation, little did they know that she would help them conceive a jewelry brand.
“We were somewhere in Italy — Positano or Capri — and we met this beautiful woman,” Joseph said. “She was a world traveler, adventurer, and she inspired us to make jewelry for that kind of woman who is independent, sophisticated and combines luxury and adventure in all of her travels.”
So in 2004, the couple launched Bochic, short for “bohemian chic.” The brand is designed for women who enjoy jetting to exotic destinations — Egypt, Morocco, Turkey — but in an elegant, understated way.
“We felt this type of woman didn’t have jewelry she could wear,” said Joseph, who is showing privately during the shows. “Jewelry should be wearable, not just for sitting around on the French Riviera. Our woman would wear it and enjoy it during the day into evening.”
A favorite among such stars as Halle Berry and Eva Mendes, Bochic features Eastern-inspired pendants, rings and earrings in gold, rose-cut diamonds and precious stones, such as emeralds, opals and sapphires. The collection also includes large cuffs with diamonds, rubies and turquoise set in black-and-white bakelite.
Retailing from $9,000 to $14,000, Bochic is available at such stores as Neiman Marcus and Stanley Korshak in Dallas.
Joseph is hoping women who are looking for something a little bit different will take a chance on Bochic’s sexy, stunning pieces.
“By definition, fine jewelry can be very conservative,” Joseph said. “But we hope to see a big difference soon in how people view fine jewelry, to be more open, more risky. So we feel comfortable in this arena as we go forward and can continue to pay attention to design.”
0108 by Anthony Nak
Anthony Nak has had quite the year. Last summer the Austin, Tex.-based fine jewelry firm — famous for wrapping its gemstone gold chains around the likes of Angelina Jolie and Sarah Jessica Parker — launched the Atelier Anthony Nak collection on QVC. The line consists of more than a dozen styles selling from $40 to $190, with silver and gemstone earrings, rings, bracelets and necklaces.
Now, the company is taking another step with its new 0108 collection.
“The CFDA and Designers and Agents asked us to be in the D&A show and that’s how we came up with it,” said Anthony Camargo, who cofounded Anthony Nak with women’s wear designer Nak Armstrong. “0108 is the day they asked us to do it.”
The firm describes the collection as “raw, real and bold” and “boundless and rule-breaking.” Wholesaling from $100 to $680, 0108’s edgy, rock ‘n’ roll-inspired pieces in sterling silver, black silk, leather and gemstones hits Maxfield in Los Angeles and Dallas’ 4510 in August.
“The collection allowed us an entry into a genre we haven’t done,” said Camargo. who is showing privately during the shows. “It allowed us to experiment and be relevant again. With the price of gold, there’s a limit on what you can do. We want to be edgy but with using stones. We also want to be designers and want people to wear our things.”